A Framework for Game-Based Learning Design in Higher Education

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Game-based learning in higher education has been challenged by critiques addressed concerning simplicity, lack of depth and a formalistic and systemic approach, which is in contradiction to higher education’s demands for critical thinking and exploration. There has been a tendency to focus on simple game structures that only feed the player with information, rather than encouraging curiosity and exploration. Difficulties are well known regarding the creation of a direct connection between educational content and the basic game structure. This paper will through an in-depth interview with World of Warcraft gamers and longitudinal educational design studies, develop a framework for a reconceptualisation of game principles in higher education. The methods include three gamers and 150 students from the technological educations program at University College of Northern Denmark. Based on qualitative empirical data a content analysis is conducted. The empirical findings reveal how the principles from game-based learning can support the students learning process and afford critical thinking and Exploration relevant for higher education. The framework for game-based learning, addressed in this paper, can contribute to the existing knowledge as it point towards an idea of how to use gaming principles to challenge existing normativity within game-based learning and subsequently inspire further developments for how academic topics, including critical thinking, can be learned in a much more exploratory way through games. Second, the article elaborates on the importance of the game-design supporting the intended learning processes. It is stressed that a holistic design strategy is needed to maintain the educational demands for critical thinking and exploration. However, further studies are suggested testing the evidence of academic learning in the use of game-based learning design in higher education. Primarily, studies addressing the effect of game-based learning in student critical thinking and exploration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Conference on Games Based Learning
Issue numberOct. 2019
Pages (from-to)872-880
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2019
Event13th European Conference on Games Based Learning: ECGBL 2019 - University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
Duration: 3 Oct 20194 Oct 2019


Conference13th European Conference on Games Based Learning
LocationUniversity of Southern Denmark


  • education, professions and jobs
  • learning, educational science and teaching


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